The Miami Report

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Student service coalition renews effort of Miami Service Network

By Phaedra Solomon
This fall marks the return to campus of the Miami Service Network (MSN), a coalition of student service organizations working together to establish a community of cooperation, communication and collaboration.

Conceptually MSN consists of three components: establishing open communication; service connection, a database of different service environments; and Learn! Opportunities, a service learning program offering workshops and seminars to students and faculty dedicated to service.

In practice, MSN comprises close to 20 organizations that come together twice a month in an effort to create open dialogue, communication and an increased emphasis on service learning rather than community service.

"Service learning differs from community service in that it centers around social justice issues and tends to be long-term oriented," said Elizabeth Gish, MSN president.

One feature of the Learn! Opportunities program is that it will enable students to earn academic credit using the skills obtained in class while at the same time giving back to the community through service.

"Service learning is an attempt to bridge the gap between textbook knowledge and life learning experiences," said Carolyn Hadgikosti, MSN executive officer.

"The top universities in the nation require some type of service learning experience," she said. "At Miami we want students to take the initiative in a grass roots effort to promote the benefits of service learning so that it won’t have to be a requirement."

MSN, founded in the late 1980s by Associated Student Government in conjunction with the Office of Student Leadership and Service Learning, dissolved in 1998 as a result of lack of student participation.

"It was my dream to rebuild MSN with an increased emphasis on service learning," Gish said.

This year, again through the joint effort of ASG and the office of student leadership and service learning, MSN will provide service learning workshops that will focus on moving beyond the idea that short-term, inconsistent service will bring social change.

MSN will also participate actively in the promotion and organization of Hunger and Homelessness Awareness Week, Make a Difference Day and the World Hunger Dinner.

"The idea behind the World Hunger Dinner is that each person will be representative of a portion of the world’s population," Gish said. "Some will have steak and potatoes while others have rice and bread."

A group of selected students will have the opportunity to work closely with Mike Nygren, a nationally known service and leadership trainer, in a restoration project titled Leon’s House.

"We hope to get a core group of students who have demonstrated a genuine interest and are willing to go through an intense leadership program so that they can go out into the Miami community and motivate students to participate in service learning," Hadgikosti said.

Solomon is a student writer in the news and public information office.

Date Published: 11/04/1999
Volume: 19   Number: 15

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